By: Nancy J. Hopp, IL CSR, RDR, CRR, CMRS, FAPR
When you hire a court reporter, you’re entrusting your work product to a person who presumably has the speed and accuracy skills necessary to faithfully record a witness’s testimony. But there’s a lot more that goes into being a good court reporter. Because of the wide range of content reporters are exposed to, they need to possess a good vocabulary, including medical terms and other technical jargon, as well as punctuation skills to convey the appropriate meaning. A good reporter will also be aware of state rules that govern the profession. Familiarity with technology also plays a role in the services that court reporters provide. And of great importance is the need to understand the impartial role they play in legal proceedings and the related ethical considerations.
Because of these occupational necessities, many states require their court reporters to pass a state licensing exam before they can practice reporting.
The skills portion usually consists of three 5-minute dictations at speeds anywhere from 180 words per minute up to 225 wpm, typically requiring 95% accuracy to pass. The types of dictation content and speeds of the tests can vary from state to state.
States which require licensure also typically administer a written knowledge test, covering English grammar and punctuation, legal and medical terminology and the requirements of the state’s licensing laws.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the primary nationwide industry association, also offers certification testing. You may have noticed that some reporters have a veritable alphabet soup of certification initials after their names. The various NCRA written exams are psychometrically validated, and NCRA skills tests contain dictation content similar to the state exams, requiring 95% accuracy to pass.
The NCRA provides the following speed certifications:
The various NCRA designations can provide you with peace of mind regarding the competency of a reporter, most especially in states which do not have certification laws. In addition, your local reporting firm may be willing to aid you in your search for and vetting of a reporter.
Regardless of the certifying body, whether on the state or national level, most certifications also contain a continuing education requirement to ensure that reporters keep up to date over time in a world of ever-changing information and technology. Certified reporters regularly attend conventions and webinars to stay current. Sample content includes punctuation classes, software training, ethical considerations, idioms and accents, business best practices, working with an interpreter, technical terminology and cyber security, to name just a few. This component of certification affords assurance that the court reporter you use is a competent professional who has kept up with the latest reporting profession developments.